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NSSGA Podcast

Aug 3, 2023

In this latest episode, Libby is joined by Kyle Zimmer, Health and Safety Director with the Operating Engineers at Local 478, who has been passionately working towards improving worker well-being, mental health, and addressing substance abuse issues for over 15 years. Today, Kyle shares his journey of developing a peer program for both construction and general industry to tackle addiction, suicide prevention, and mental health challenges. His conversation with Libby highlights the cultural changes in the industry over the years and the importance of workplace peers who care, show compassion, and provide support to their colleagues. They also discuss the impact of the opioid crisis and how it brought awareness to the need for assistance programs and resources. Emphasizing the importance of breaking the stigma around mental health, Kyle is here today to encourage more peers on the job site to provide support and recommend further care when needed.


Episode Highlights:

  • Kyle Zimmer shares his 20-year journey with Local 478 Operating Engineers and the focus on worker well-being, mental health, and substance abuse issues

  • Cultural changes in the construction and general industry over the years and how they addressed the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • The emergence of lifestyle issues, such as addiction, suicide prevention, and mental health, and the industry's response to tackle these challenges

  • The role of workplace peers in supporting colleagues, recognizing struggles, and providing help and resources

  • The three C's and the three R's that define a workplace peer's approach to providing support and care to those in need

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and the importance of continuing to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues

  • The accessibility of being a workplace peer and the significance of staying with the person, having conversations, and recommending resources for further care

Toolbox Talk Discussion Questions:

  • In this episode, Kyle talks about some of the changes in workplace culture he has seen over his career. Have you noticed any of the cultural shifts he spoke about, or any others?  

  • Kyle describes what it means to be a workplace peer. Does anyone have a story about a time where they were supported by their peers, or they gave support to others?  

  • How do you think a formal workplace peer program would work at our site? Would you be interested in participating, why or why not?  



"The biggest cultural change I was involved in was in the late 70s, early 80s, when we went to shore up the wearing of PPE... That was probably the biggest thing that started changes in both construction and general industry."

"The opioid crisis surely played a big part in people reaching out for help... things started happening. People were reaching out for help, both on the labor side and the management side. We realized we had a problem. We couldn't continue this way."

"The best way to address this is through workplace peers, people that care about other people."

"Being a peer is not rocket science. It's caring, compassion, and concern. And we all have that in us."

"Encourage people to be peers, be there for their coworkers and friends, and then help them take that next step in making recommendations for further care."


National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association website

Mental Health Resources